- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Palliative care
- Key questions about palliative care
- Does palliative care shorten or lengthen life?
Does palliative care shorten or lengthen life?
Palliative care sees death and dying as a normal part of life. It does not try to shorten life, nor does it try to make life longer. Instead, the palliative care team provides services to improve your quality of life. This may include managing pain and other symptoms. Some studies show that if symptoms, such as pain, are controlled, people will feel better and may live longer.
It is important to understand the difference between palliative care and euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying. Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending the life of a person with an incurable condition or illness. Voluntary assisted dying is when a person ends their own life with the help of a doctor. Palliative care, however, does not attempt to hasten death.
At the time of publication (May 2019), euthanasia and voluntary assisted dying are illegal in Australia. Voluntary assisted dying for people who meet strict criteria will become legal in Victoria from 19 June 2019 (for more information, visit health.vic). Although the laws in some other states and territories are under review (visit End of Life Law in Australia for updates), euthanasia and voluntary assisted dying are not part of palliative care.
The coordinated medical and support services of palliative care can help maintain comfort and quality of life throughout the advanced stages of illness. If you urgently need to talk to somebody because you are thinking about ending your life, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for free, confidential telephone counselling.
Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director, Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer & Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney, NSW; Richard Austin, Social Worker, Specialist Palliative Care Service, TAS; Sondra Davoren, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; A/Prof Brian Le, Director of Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Cathy McDonnell, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Centre for Palliative Care, Concord Hospital, NSW; Natalie Munro, Team Leader, PalAssist, QLD; Penelope Murphy, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Merrilyn Sim, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. We particularly acknowledge the input of Palliative Care Australia and their permission to quote from €œBrian’s Story €_x009d_ in A Journey Lived – a collection of personal stories from carers (2005).
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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